Proclaiming Jesus from the Roof Tops
What kind of freedom of religion do we want to see in the UK? The freedom to worship in private, unseen and behind closed doors - or the freedom to practise and boldly proclaim our faith in public?
In the UK we still have more freedom than in many other parts of the world, and we do not see the same level of persecution that Christians often face in other countries.Last week 52 people were killed at a church in Baghdad by militants. A woman in Pakistan, Asia Bibi, has just been sentenced to death for allegedly ‘blaspheming’ Muhammad. Christians in Egypt have recently been threatened with a bloodbath. It’s very sobering.
Thankfully, we do not see this yet in the West - but we do already see Christians losing their jobs and being marginalised at work because of their faith; Christian parents not being allowed to foster children because of their values; Christian adoption agencies being forced to close; churches threatened with noise abatement notices; nurses and teachers suspended for offering prayer and street evangelists arrested for ‘causing offence’. These are not isolated examples but are part of a wider trend. Society is increasingly subscribing to values that are explicitly hostile to the Christian faith.
There are many people who would prefer Christians to keep their faith behind closed doors. Some would say that Christians have the ‘freedom to worship’ and that we should be satisfied with that in a ‘secular society’. But there is a big difference between the ‘freedom to worship’ and ‘freedom of religion’. We mustn’t be deceived - Christians should be free to share their faith at work, to offer to pray for people, to preach openly, to wear a cross, to adopt children and raise them as Christians, to evangelise on the streets and to engage fully in the public sphere.
Do we want these freedoms – or are we happy just to worship behind closed doors?
Christians should be able to stand up in every area of public life and proclaim Jesus – without having to suffer legal consequences. This is especially important in relation to the ‘roof tops’ of our society – the legal world, education, the government, media, the arts and the business world. These are all spheres of influence that the church has neglected for a long time. Who occupies these spheres now? Who influences public opinion at this time? Is the church shaping society or is society shaping the church? I believe that we need to stand on these ‘roof tops’ of society and declare the good news boldly.It’s the loving thing to do.
The gospel states: ‘What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roof tops.’ (Matthew 10v27). If we don’t proclaim our values then other voices will shape our society. That’s a dangerous position to take.
Christian Concern responded today to a consultation on the Public Sector Equality Duty which comes into force this April (see below for further details). This new duty on all public bodies increases the reach of equality law considerably and could well lead to anincrease in the number of Christians being penalised as a result of their faith.
Equality law in the UK has been shaped by a secular ideology advocated by people who would like Christians to disappear from public view. We can’t let this happen! That’s why we launched the ‘Not Ashamed’ campaign. We want to encourage people to be open about their faith in the workplace – walking in the opposite spirit to the fear that would cause us to shrink back.
There are many Christians in this country who are not ashamed of Jesus and who are not willing to be marginalised. Let us stand and raise a voice together, because as Christians we have the solutions that our country desperately needs. We live in a broken society but Jesus Christ is the answer and the hope for our nation. Proclaiming him from the pulpit is not enough. We also need to proclaim him boldly from the roof tops and speak into every area of our society. We need to stand against the prevailing winds and take back our society for Jesus.
Please see our consultation response here.
|Andrea is the CEO of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre. She is married with four children.|
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